Musings from the sports desk: Hernandez ruling
Hernandez took his own life, but set his family up financially in doing so
By BRANDON HURLEY
Thanks to a nasty, centuries old loop hole, a convicted murderer, who is now deemed innocent by law, may have set his family up financially despite taking his own life.
Aaron Hernandez, the distraught former New England Patriots’ tight end and convicted murderer, posthumously saw his 2013 murder case vacated Tuesday thanks to a doctrine known as abatement ab initio.
It’s an infuriating and frustrating rule that no one will ever be able to prove whether Hernandez was aware of or not. His murder conviction was vacated because he died before the appeal process was completed. And for some odd reason, the law which roughly means “from the beginning” does not differentiate between the variety of ways a person could die. Suicide still falls within the parameters of the ruling. A case can only be determined null if the ruling is being appealed.
For my money, I find it hard to believe that Hernandez and his lawyers did not have any idea of this loophole, but regardless, the courts felt they didn’t have enough evidence to rule otherwise.
Take his last communication with the outside world for example. At the end of his suicide note to his finance, he wrote “You’re rich” in parenthesis. Now, the context isn’t clear – he makes no prior mention of money in his note and the statement is written following his reference to their kids. Any reasonable and objective human could make a case that he was pointing out their kids would make her rich in life. Or, he could have known about this doctrine and was making a subtle hint. We, of course, will never know.
With that being said, Hernandez’s decision to take his own life doesn’t in any way clear his name in the court of the public since he was in fact convicted by a jury, but it gives us a deeper understanding of what the man may have been struggling with.
In absolutely no way am I commending what a once convicted murderer, who was also acquitted of two other murders did, but it definitely takes an inane amount of gall to kill yourself for your family’s gain, even if he was serving a life sentence.
Imagine wrestling with that decision in your head, whether to live life for several more decades (he was only 27) – albeit in a prison cell – or end it all, by hanging (a brutal way to go, I imagine) and set your family up for several years, financially.
Of course, Hernandez took the coward’s way out, he took the life of someone he once considered a friend and now, he will not serve time for the sickening crimes he committed. But, and maybe this is what he was thinking while ultimately taking his own life, why should his family suffer because of the brutal acts of murder he committed?
Let me stress that I am not belittling or making light of suicide or for that matter defending a murderer. Hundreds of thousands of human beings in the U.S. each year struggle and battle with mental illness which often leads to suicide. Hernandez very likely could have been suffering with depression, but his note certainly hints at a plan. Unfortunately, we may never know what truly was going on in this young man’s brain.
Whether he committed suicide or was killed by another inmate in cooperation, it seems like he did a financially smart thing, as sickening as it is to write. He for once was thinking of someone other than himself.
Odin Lloyd’s family (the victim who Hernandez was once found guilty of murdering) had several lawsuits out on Hernandez, but now that he’s legally innocent, they may never see any money in return, which is truly heartbreaking for that family, but savvy by those in Hernandez’s camp.
There are various reports out there that Hernandez’s estate is still in line to receive the remainder of a $3.2 million NFL signing bonus, a workout bonus of $82,000 and a pension plan that could pay his family around $50,000 per year (according to documents obtained by Deadspin.com).
Then there’s the other side of this ugly picture as well – it may or may not come as closure for Lloyd’s family knowing that Hernandez, the person who killed their loved one, will never be able to roam the streets again. That he’s no longer a threat to anyone. He created – and executed – his own life sentence. But then consider the startling fact that though he was actually convicted of the murder, legally, the case is forever unsolved and vacated because of his death.
That has to be a sickening feeling, knowing that your loved one’s killer cleared his name by taking yet another life.
The ruling Tuesday leads me to wonder – will this case have long-lasting ramifications on other convicted murders? Will there suddenly be a wave of prison suicides? Will the families of convicted felons across the country encourage them to take their own lives for their financial gain? Perhaps I’m oversimplifying this a bit, but there has to be people out there taking notes.
(Again, suicide is a tragic epidemic throughout the world, I certainly hope this does not become a trend. Many adults and teenagers are turning to suicide as a cry for help. But that’s a completely different topic for another day that I’m certainly not qualified to discuss.)
There’s two sides to this coin – in a twisted way, criminals looking for a way to clear their names by suicide or death is a sick type of natural selection, leaving the country’s prisons with less inmates and fewer killers on the street, but it also could set in motion a drastic trend of self-inflicted killings. It could also take a tremendous toll on families, children and friends, perhaps triggering a lifetime of confusion and devestation. Knowing that they may never be able to speak to said inmate, whether by phone, in person or in letters, has to be hard, no matter how much time they were serving.
The easiest fix, of course, is to correct this ancient doctrine and eliminate the possibility of more suicides all together.
It will be a slow process, but I think we all know it’s time for a change.